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For the week of May 22 - 28, 2002


35 swept up in alleged money laundering raid

Law enforcement officials refuse to disclose details

Express Staff Writer

Federal, state and county law enforcement agents descended on four different Blaine County locations at about 6 a.m. Tuesday to arrest suspects in an alleged money laundering and alien smuggling ring.

Three law enforcement officers collect evidence from a mobile home in the Sun Tree Hollow trailer park. However, even as they were hauling boxes of materials from the trailer, the officers refused to say it was part of a state and federal raid. Express photo by Willy Cook

By noon, 35 people were taken out of the valley. Six were arrested for alleged money laundering and smuggling aliens. Another 29 were arrested for allegedly being illegal aliens.

The six accused of money laundering and smuggling aliens were identified as Francisco Herrera-Ceja, Rodrigo Herrera-Ceja, Lucia Herrera-Ceja, and Pier Herrera-Ceja, all of Hailey, and Audelia Herrera-Ceja of Bellevue and Jorge Chavez-Herrera of Ketchum.

Names and whereabouts of the alleged illegal aliens were not released. Officials indicated they would be deported.

Money laundering is a way of giving large amounts of money from drug deals or other illegal transactions the appearance that they were accumulated by legal means like retail sales.

Jean McNeil, a public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boise, said the indictments against the six valley residents have been sealed by the U.S. District Court of Idaho. She said she did not know where they were being held nor when they would go before a magistrate.

McNeil said a possible reason for sealing the indictments is that the suspects have not yet had opportunity to read them.

The different sites that were raided Tuesday morning were 604 Pine St. in Bellevue, 1021 Snow Flake in Hailey, 2921 Glenbrook Drive in Hailey, La Mexicana, a general store at 400 N. Main St. in Hailey, and trailer No. 24 in the Sun Tree Hollow trailer park, south of Ketchum.

U.S. Attorney Ralph Gonzalez, Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling and McNeil were all tight-lipped about saying anything about the early morning arrests except what was in a press release sent out by Femling.

Other than the names of those arrested, places raided and charges, the press release only stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Idaho State Police and the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office were involved in the arrests and execution of search warrants.

Gonzalez, who was contacted by cell phone en route between Pocatello and Boise, said more details of the arrests would be made public Wednesday or Thursday.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.